tv The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN March 24, 2012 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
calling for zimmermann's arrest. i'll don lemon. i'll see you back here at 7:00 p.m. eastern. make sure you join us and send your comments to cnn hash tag trayvon. . >> you're in the situation room. mitt romney tries to prove his vision of health care is different than president obama's but his republican rivals aren't buying it. and the u.s. supreme court is days away from hearing a case that could change medical coverage for millions of americans and possibly change the presidential race. >> and gripping new video of syria's slaughter, showing how the youngest victims are living and dying. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
mitt romney is wrapping up a rather tough week of being hammered and belittled by his republican opponents but he's trying to keep his sights on president obama and an issue that's problematic for both of them -- health care. the republican is taking some of his toughest shots yet at the controversial reform law the president signed into law two years ago exactly this week. let's bring in our senior correspondent joe johns working this story for us. it's going to be a huge issue not only in the days to come but in the weeks and months to come i have no doubt. >> wolf, that's true. and he may be the front-runner but mitt romney has had a very tough week, as you said. if you look at the polls just starting with the polls, it's pretty clear he's been running in double digits behind rick
santorum in the state of louisiana in the run-up to the primary. then there is that other problem, health care. a pretty big problem in fact because not on is this the two-year anniversary of the obama health care plan, next week the united states supreme court is also expected to hold hearings on the obama health care plan. mitt romney has been campaigning against it, saying it all to be repealed, ought to be replaced. the problem is when he was the governor of the state of massachusetts, he put something in that was very similar. now let's listen to how mitt romney has been framing the attack. >> this presidency has been a failure. and at the centerpiece of this failure is this piece of legislation back here, obamacare. i say that for many reasons. one, you note that the white house is not celebrating obamacare today. they don't have any big ceremony going on, the president's not
giving speeches on obamacare and that's for a reason. most americans want to get rid of it and we're among those americans. i want to get rid of it, too. >> the main issue is that romney health care plan essentially included the so-called individual mandate that compels citizens to pay for health insurance which the obama health care plan also has. romney makes the case, interestingly enough and i think this is the issue, that statesp the federal government doesn't. if you talk to some constitutional law experts, they'll tell you that's the kind of thing that might fly in a courtroom but it's very hard to make that case in public. so the opponents of mitt romney have been hitting him quite hard on this. we expect these kinds of back-and-forth arguments to continue at least into the middle of next week. wolf? >> all right, joe, thanks very
much. i want to dig deeper with candy crowley. is the president on the second anniversary of signing the health care reform law, is he running away from it? is he embarrassed by it? is it a political lose are fr f? >> it's not a loser but it's not a wholesale winner. they put a web site up with people that have been helped by things like allowing your child -- unemployed child to stay on your insurance for longer, children can't be decide insurance for preexisting conditions, et cetera. they're putting all that up there. i think he's treating it as what it is, which is a mixed bag for both sides. there's a lot of ambivalence in the polling. individual aspects are popular. the core issue that people have to buy health insurance is
unpopular. you ask is it good for the country on the democrats get to a 50/50 split. >> what i so love about this campaign is is it true that mitt romney installed a mandate and candidate obama campaigned against it. >> the individual mandate was first promoted by kofrconservat as the alternative to bill and hillary clinton's health care plan. over 20 republican senators encorsed a bill with an individual mandate at senator and disappeared from american politics by a decade, it was excavated by mitt romney in his op-ed piece in the "boston globe." he passed it, schwarzenegger adopted it, hillary clinton adopted it in 2007 and as candy points out and wolf points out,
barack obama opposed it as a candidate, was convinced when he came into office primarily by the insurance industry he needed this to make the bill work. now i think democrats are looking for ways to make the bill work if the supreme court strikes it down. >> you want to talk about another huge story this week that really got going, the trayvon martin killing in florida. on friday the president weighed in and said this. >> my main message is to the parents of trayvon martin. if i had a son, he'd look like trayvon. and, you know, i think they are right to expect that all of us as americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. >> the republican presidential
candidates are weighing in. they want an investigation. is there going to be political fallout from what happened done in florida on the campaign trail do you think? >> not at this moment do i see it. i think now the republicans have all sort of have their statement is they need to, you know, they have every right to demand equal justice here, there has to be an investigation into this, the justice system has to be blind. so i think that's about as far as you're going to get them on this. it's an ongoing case. i don't see it becoming a bone of contention on the campaign trail. >> some brought out the whole issue of guns, which is a hot button issue. >> doesn't work well for democrats. >> this is fraught ground for the the president. the last time he got involved in with it was unsteady ground for him. there is still kind of that question out there.
the gun issue has been one they have generally shied away from. almost obsessively so. they just do not want to go there. it's not that simple on the gun issue either. there are portions of the democratic constituency that are for a more activist posture but you've never been able to sell that to this white house. >> ron brownstein, thank you. candy, we'll see you sunday morning. >> next week, the united states supreme court will hear the challenge to the health care reform law. it's a huge issue. it's certainly going to dominate a lot of the headlines next week as the supreme court justices consider various arguments. our congressional correspondent kate baldwin is here in the situation room. you've been doing a lot of work on this, kate. this is going to cause quite a little buzz, not only next week but in june or whenever there's a final decision. >> in short, this is going to be huge. this is an historic, precedent making case. it's something everyone needs to pay attention to. the health care law, it's about 2,700 pages, more than 450
approa provisions. it impacts every american. it's hard to overstate just how high the stakes are in this upcoming supreme court fight. >> we are done. >> march 23rd, 2010, president obama signs into law the signature achievement of his presidency, the affordable care act, the landmark and controversial health care overhaul. >> after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the united states of america. >> within hours states across the country filed lawsuits challenging the law. >> this is about lib are therty just about health care. >> led by florida, 26 states argue the law's central provision is unconstitutional, the so-called individual mandate. it requires almost every american to purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a
penalty. opponents say the constitution's commerce clause does not give congress the power to force individuals to purchase a commercial product like health insurance they may not need or want. paul clement is organizing on behalf of the states before the supreme court. >> these issues are really central to whether the federal government can regulate anything it wants to. >> the government defends the sweeping reforms arguing medical care is not a choice, that every american will need health care at some point in their lives. the they also say tens of millions of uninsured americans are costing everyone else more, $43 billion in uncompensated costs in 2008 alone according to government figures. >> no one is saying that there's a right to free load off one's neighbor when you decide not to choose health insurance. >> the stakes only grow larger with the supreme court taking the case just months before an election. >> if i'm president, we're getting rid of obamacare and returning to freedom.
>> and the election year blockbuster has again turned the spotlight on the justices themselves. as with the bush v. gore case in 2000, will the justices be criticized for letting politics creep into the courtroom? >> well, the health care cases have huge political overtones. i think the justices are probably going to put them to the side. the legal stakes are so high that i don't think they'll pay attention that much, if at all, to the fact that it's occurring in an election cycle. they've just got to get the case right. >> what we're really talking about here is four separate issues being argued for six hours over three days. that is very rare. that rarely happens. and as for how this will shake out, well, the justices obviously they can do anything they want. they have a lot of options, rule narrowly on just the facts of this case or offer a sweeping road map on what power congress and the president really should have going forward but even after these marathon public
sessions. wolf, you noted we're still not going to get a final decision for a while. it wouldn't come likely until three months, sometime around the time of june will we get a final ruling from the justices and everyone should be watching for that. >> and it will potentially either way, it will be a hot button issue on the campaign trail. >> you'll be listening to the argue monies? >> i'll be in there for all six hours. >> the new orleans saints pay a heavy price to paid players to actually injure their opponents. >> and we have a shocking report the toll syria's regime is taking among the children. and a warning that iran's a team of terrorists have hundreds, maybe thousands of agents right here in the united states possibly ready to attack. [ male announcer ] chicken broccoli alfredo.
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tear firing -- terrifying reason to be worried about tensions with iran. officials are now warning iran has a large terrorist-trained force right in the united states. they say there may be hundreds, even thousands of hezbollah agents on american soil who could be ready and willing to attack. what are you finding out? >> very startling testimony in congress on this. current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials saying many of he hezboll hezbollah's operatives have been in the u.s. for years, blending in, making a lot of money, a perfect resource for iran if it wants a quick attack on the u.s. homeland. it's called iran's a team of terrorism, hezbollah, a militant
group that's killed more americans than any other except al qaeda. with concerns of how iran may retaliate, intel officials tell congress they have more concerns over operatives who have been lying low. >> their sophistication, presence and deepen trenchment has a presence to provide a platform that should be of concern to all americans. >> the export told the panel hezbollah could have hundreds of operatives, engain in drug running, cigarette smuggling. >> there were over 70 used car dealerships that were identified as part of the money laundering scheme for laundering the
hundreds of millions of dollars of cocaine generated revenue, much of which was, you know, tracked back to hezbollah. >> these experts say if provoked, iran and hezbollah have the capability of hatching a plot at any moment inside u.s. i told with tom fuentes, a cnn contributor about that. >> that doesn't necessarily translate into an attack on the u.s. homeland, right? >> correct. there's no good reason to do it and many good reasons not to do it. >> why not? >> the united states is a cash cow for them. why kill it and kill off the funding scream that they've gotten good at conducting criminal activity here. >> one expert pointed out hezbollah has never carried out an attack inside the united states but the fbi says they
have staked out potential targets in this country, wolf. >> what kind of evidence do u.s. officials have to potentially build cases against these alleged hezbollah operatives in the united states? >> one federal law enforcement official says cases include illicit fund-raising, attempts to buy weapons, not actual plots. this is what officials are afraid of. it's their infrastructure inside the united states. they have people inside who know how to work the financial system, who have been here for work. those are the people they're worried about, the infrastructure. >> thanks very much. >> the youngest victims of the slaughter in syria. the nightmare countless children are living under. and what satellite images are showing. [ female announcer ] removing facial hair can be irritating.
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as the syrian military expands its bombardments of cities and towns across the country, shelling is causing heavy civilian casualties, including children. there's little or moe medical care availability in so many times part of the country. we must caution you, parts of arwa's report are quite graphic and disturbing. >> doctors try in vain to revive this little boy. heap has a head injury. is this child part of the armed gangs the doctor asks angrily? is this the response to kofi annan and calls for piece?
it's a hopeless effort. the life drains from his body. other children shriek in pain. a little girl with a leg wound cries out for her father. next to her a child. sheep has a wound to her arm but it's too gruesome to show. most of it has been blown off. she says "i just want to go home, have dinner and watch tv." sheep says she was playing with three other children when an artillery round struck. these are scenes from this town close to the lebanese border close to the weekend. video shows rebel fighters around the town with meager and faulty wednesdayon and a population on edge, knowing a full-on assault was imminent but with nowhere to go. government forces seem to have temporarily pulled back, allowing for activists to film
images of the after math which they then post to youtube. this boy is from the neighborhood. each says he was in a mosque when the soldiers came in. not even the children were spared. they lined us up against a wall and then they started shooting. there were 15 of us. some were my relatives. some were my friends, he says. some were even younger than he. for days this town was under heavy shelling. army raids drove rebel fighters out. rescue teams wrere unable to enter. when they finally did, they say the streets were littered with corpses. this man there was. there were bodies that were burnt completely, as if someone had poured gasoline on them and set them on fire. i saw five slaughtered children. they slashed their eyes and
faces with knives. m among the piles of dead, evidence of dozens of wounded children. he says that was also part of their rescue mission. they committed a big massacre. we found 32 children, many with their four fingers cut off, gunshot wounds, he says. i mean, they were young, all under 15 years of age, he continues. this boy was one of them, with a gunshot wound to the chest. both his tiny hands bandaged. more victims of violence no one can comprehend and no one seems able to stop. >> as syrian security forces pound away at towns and cities we have new satellite pictures that show the scope and the strategy of president bashar al assad's army. >> one thing they have not been able to do is track the movement of the army around places like
this. these images give us an idea of what's been happening. in this picture taken not more than a few days ago, you can see newly arrived tanks gathered here and armored vehicles gathered here and over in here. if we take this image and push it aside, we can bring up another new image. it's telling because it's one of the few ways we can see what they're doing in that area. in this image you see the same thing, newly arrived armor vehicles in here and over here, clustered right along that line and then you see more up in here and up in here. as you look through pictures like this, wolf, it gives you an idea of how close they are in situations like this where you have some newly arrived vehicles that have been spotted in areas like this. this is some different units. this is only about a mile and a half from that location to the population over here. why does that matter? it matter because of the type of weapons and vehicles we're talking about here, wolf.
for example, when we talk about infantry fighting vehicles, armored vehicles, they look like these. these are actual pictures of syrian vehicles here. this has a shelling range of about a mile and a half. so plenty close to strike from outside where they're really in almost no danger from those fighters that arwa showed us with very few weapons and small ones. and t-72 tanks. these are soviet-made tanks. the syrians have about 4,700 tanks overall, about 1,700 of them are newer versions of t-72 or t-72m tanks, shelling range of almost two miles and obviously against rebel or fr s protesting forces almost invulnerable. and artillery. these have a shelling range of
14 miles. though a lot the syrian artillery is old, it still works well and they have a lot of it. that's why we see week after week after week the pounding away at the centers of these towns. they can park all of those vehicles from distances outside and hit again and again and again and again. >> what a story. thanks very much. the killing continues. >> it's one of the harshest penalties ever doled out in the nfl. you'll see why one sports analyst calls what happens to the new orleans saints historic. an attack scam so big the irs can't keep track of it. and a new effort to solve the 75-year-old miss try of the female trail blazer amelia air hart.
imagine filing your income taxes only to be told that someone else already has done it and received your refund. it's fraud so big even the irs doesn't know how much money is at stake. law enforcement says it could be in the billions of dollars. for the first time in our exclusive investigation, will you see the fraud unfold in florida where in some neighborhoods it's become a way of life. here's cnnrandi king. >> we've just rolled up on a crime hid i don't know on a piece of plastic, a debit card. >> he's got the cards. he just purchased them it looks like. >> those debit cards police say are used to take advantage of fast tax refunds from the irs. here's how it works. the thieves are stealing those refunds by stealing people's social security numbers from
insiders at hospitals, doctors offices, even car dealerships. anyplace where you have to give your personal information. they then use the stolen information to go online and file a tax return, making up the income the person earned for the year. the irs then puts the refund money on a debit card purchased by the thieves. >> you see, this is what they're buying. see green-dot money card. he went to target and spent $600 and he paid with a debit card. >> i'm just curious what you do for work that you drive such a fancy car. >> i don't know nothing about that. >> you don't know nothing about that? can you tell me if you know anything about identity theft happening around here? >> i don't know nothing about that. >> are you involved in any of the tax fraud? >> i don't know nothing about that. >> detectives craig khatlynn and rocky festa will later charge him with buying these gift cards with stolen tax return money.
how easy is it to do this? >> the fraudulent refunds are so easy. it's like the federal government putting crack cocaine in candy machines. >> the crooks cash in the debit cards as quickly as possible. they flaunt fancy watches, diamond pendants worth $55,000 and other jewelry. this one inscribed with the words "money hungry." just a few hundred miles north up in tampa, police estimate the fraud approaches a staggering half billion dollars in the last two years. >> that's over 2,000 in cash. >> just one example of what is happening nationwide. police chief jane castor says the irs efforts to curtail it aren't working. >> i don't think that i have ever seen this magnitude of
fraud that is just wide open. it's wide open and there just doesn't seem to be much being done about it. >> for its part the irs identified $6.5 billion in tax refund fraud related to identity theft last year. >> i'd like to hear the other side of that equation, too, and an estimation of how much got through. >> that's what we wanted to know, too. just how much fraud has gone undetected. after weeks of asking, the irs's deputy commissioner, beth tucker, couldn't give us an answer. >> just to be clear, you can tell us how much has been caught but i irs can't say how much of this fraudulent money has ended up in criminal hands? >> we process 140 million tax returns at irs in a given year. we're doing a balancing act because one thing we want to do is get refunds out to the hands of legitimate taxpayers as quickly as possible and with as
little intrusion, but for the actual size of the problem, we probably need to get back to you with us number. >> law enforcement tells us there's a simple solution to curbing much of the fraud -- don't allow the refunds to be put on debit cards. why hasn't the irs stopped that? >> not every taxpayer has a bank account. and so the debit cards issued by a third-party provider are a legitimate way for taxpayers to get their refund. >> and randi, anything further on the guy who was arrested in your story? is he still out on the streets? what's going on? >> he's actually in jail, wolf. he's awaiting a court date and heap h he has not entered a play to the grand theft. it's not clear houw he got her personal information. we don't know how it ended up in his hands. >> what about all the victims out there? how do they get their refund?
>> it is a nightmare. the burden is on the victim to prove they were a victim of identity them and that someone else filed a tax return in their name. it can take them up to a year to get their refund back. the good news is that they do eventually get their refund but the irs pays twice, once to the fraudster and once to the victim later on. >> what a story. randi, thanks for investigating for us. cnn will have much more on this amazing refund robbery investigation as part of a cnn presents hour. >> when we learned the new orleans saints players were actually be paid to injure other players, we knew the league would come down hard. but the penalties the nfl are handing down to the saints organization are unprecedented. >> big games, big hits, big
skin. nfl players rewarded not only for big plays but for intentionally trying to seriously injure their opponents. an nfl investigation recently found the new orleans saints under the leadership of former defensive coordinator gregg williams had a wind ranging bounty system in place from 2009 till just last year. "sports illustrated's" peter king has been following this story closely. >> do you think all of this was driven by gregg williams? >> i think gregg williams spurred a lot of it on but i also think he had to have players on his defense who were very willing to cooperate and very willing to let this culture exist. i mean, sean payton, the head coach and mickey loomis, the general manager, have admitted and they're right, they lost institutional control of the defensive side of the ball. and so, you know, i think they're to blame.
>> the saints' head hunting reportedly reached a fever pitch, when linebacker jonathan vilma bid $10,000 of his own money to take out brett favre in the 2010 nfc championship game against the minnesota vikings. >> is this far and above beyond anything you've ever heard of in the nfl when it comes for these pay for performance? >> i'll be honest, i've never heard of a team paying money, confirmed, to try to put a guy out of the game. >> while the saints' sweeps bounty system might be unheard of, former players say they weren't shocked there was an incentive player going on. was there a similar bounty program going on when you were there? >> it's different from what i experienced in buffalo. in buffalo we had a pay-for. play, player-driven performance technique. we had a way to motivate each
other. we had a pot. you get fined if you show up late for a meeting. you get fined if you have a mental error during the game and in practice. and from that pot you're also rewarded for positive play, for causing a fumble, for making an interception. >> we reached out to the bills about wire's assertion, that there was an player-driven incentive program. they're sticking by a statement in which the ceo said we're unaware any type of bounty program occurring and we would not have tolerated that behavior. i keep hearing from a lot of people they don't understand what's the big deal? >> because the nfl players pride themselves on being such a fraternity. and when we get together on sunday, boy, we go at each other's throats but we're all brothers. i don't know any other fraternity where somebody tries to knock out and break the leg of one of his brothers or do
whatever to one of his brothers. it's just it's over the top. it's wrong. >> so wrong in the eyes of nfl commissioner roger goodell that he's dropped the hammer on the saints for their bounty system, suspending head coach sean payton for a year without pay. he also suspended saints general manager mickey loomis for eight games this coming season. but goodell saved the worst punishment for the man at the center of the bounty scandal, former saints defensive coordinator gregg williams has been suspended from the league indefinitely effective immediately. >> and ed is investigating the culture of violence in the nfl in a program that will air also sunday night right here on cnn, 8:00 p.m. eastern called "bounty hunters." a royal first for prince williams' wife. the royal duchess of cambridge makes her first public speech.
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a new clue is prompting a new effort to solve a 75-year-old mystery. the disappearance of pioneering female flyer amelia earhart. the state department in washington is getting involved. lisa sylvester is working the story for us. what is this all about? >> over the years there have been lots of theories of what happened to amelia earhart. a new one may be the best bet yet, that she and her navigator were able to land on a rein the south pacific.
amelia earhart was attempting to circumnavigate the globe. she was roughly 20 hours into the trip flying to howland island when she and her navigator vanished over the pacific ocean. now a new clue may solve the decades-ole m decades-old mystery. it's off of former gardner island. ric gillespie spent years searching for earhart. >> what struck suss that there's something sticking up out of the water over here. this is a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that fits right in with the other pieces we had. so i think it's probably the landing gear of her airplane. >> forensic imaging specialists say it could be part of her plane's landing gear. and there are more clues. items common in the 1930s were found on excavation sites on the island.
>> the artifacts we found on the site are bottles from personal care items a woman from a 1930s would have, parts of a mirror from a woman's compact. >> navy ships searched the days after she went missing but found no sign of her aircraft. at a news conference at the state department, gillespie announced a high tech deep water search will begin this summer using a small robotic submarine. the u.s. government is lending its support. secretary of state hillary clinton said she's been captivated with amelia earhart since her mother first told who are the avator's story. >> she embodied the spirit of an america coming of age, increasingly confident, ready to lead in a quite uncertain and dangerous world. >> gillespie says the photograph gives them a starting point of where to look. >> the only thing that we can do
is make a best effort to go and search and look and see what we can find. and it's the searching that's important. >> the search for earhart has been like looking for a needle in a haystack but the haystack may be a lot smaller now. that expedition trip this summer is privately funded. they'll spend ten days on the site scanning the waters. fingers crossed, maybe we'll have some answers. >> she's quite a pioneer and very courageous female aviator. >> and a lot of people want to know what happened, how does that story end? >> counting on you to solve it. >> the duchess of cambridge making her first public speech. plus firefighting like we've never seen it before, in drag. s that are oh...so...whoa. campbell's. it's amazing what soup can do.
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max foster arrived. >> reporter: she arrived in a $200 dress last worn by her mother. perhaps a gesture of frugality in an era of austerity. there's also a link to her mother-in-law, as diana also visited this network. inside, she met young children with long-term illnesses. a dream come true for many of them and a moment of respite of their daily struggle. and then a big test for any young royal. her first speech in public. people are used to seeing the duchess but not hearing her. some close by said she looked very nervous, but she stuck to the task. >> i'm really sorry william can't be here today. [ laughter ] he would love it here.
a view of his that i share is that through team work, so much can be achieved. what you have all achieved here is extraordinary. you, as a community, have built a tree house, a group of people who have heard every aspect to support and help each other. >> reporter: it wasn't a long speech and she didn't falter. and then another rite of passage, the tree planting and another engagement carried off flawlessly. there have been a flurry of public appearances by the duchess recently. but this is probably the last we're going to see of her for a while in public. prince william is heading home from the faulklands soon and they will be retiring home to spend some time together. max foster, cnn, eastern
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in minnesota. here's cnn's jeanne moos. >> reporter: if you think fighting a car fire could be a drag, imagine fighting a car fire in drag. two burly firefighters in gowns. did you realize you were fighting a fire in a dress? >> it donned on me when we were in the middle of fighting it. >> reporter: when did it dawn on ben? >> i remember seeing people with cell phones and i thought oh, my gosh. >> reporter: but they didn't have much choice. they had a float in the st. patrick's day parade in a nearby town. the firefighters dressed up to promote a beauty pageant they hold every year. but when a pickup truck caught fire, they leaped into action, even if it meant fighting not just the fire, but falling
straps on ted's grown. as for ben, you didn't seem to have any trouble with your straps. >> that's because i didn't have any. >> he did a great job handling the hose in his pretty green dress. >> reporter: the fire chief has a name for his men -- >> i call them "my girls" now. >> reporter: they managed to put out the blaze in just a couple of minutes. and the chief points out that though they lack normal protective gear, the firefighters played it safe and stayed focus. >> they could stand out there in underwear and wouldn't care. >> reporter: though some angles were less than flattering, still, you looked very pretty. the prettiest firemen i ever saw. but one burning question remains. gentlemen, who were you wearing? >> i'm pretty sure they got them from jcpenney.